Glenwood Springs man wins Carnegie Hero medal
Post Independent Editor
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A building contractor who moved here earlier this year is one of 18 recipients of the Carnegie Hero Award for his action in helping to capture a bank robber during a violent robbery in Long Beach, Calif.
“I don’t think of myself as a hero,” said David R. Jones, 50. “To me, a hero is any law enforcement person who charges in to a situation like that knowing there’s a gun.
“I was just the right person in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Jones added.
Jones wasn’t injured, but his fellow award recipient, Richard Camp of Long Beach, was shot in the thigh and another bank customer, a woman in her 70s, was shot in the leg.
The robber was shot in the arm during the short but intense struggle on the bank lobby’s floor as Jones and Camp subdued him.
The Carnegie award comes nearly two years after the March 5, 2010, robbery of a Farmers and Merchants Bank on Bellflower Boulevard in Long Beach.
Jones, Camp and 16 others are the fourth round of 2011 recipients of the Carnegie Medal, awarded by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. The medal is given in the U.S. and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
Carnegie Hero medals have been awarded to 9,495 people since 1904, when the fund for heroes was established by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
The medal also comes with a financial grant, although Jones hasn’t yet filled out that part of the paperwork. He said he feels conflicted about whether to accept the money after reading the stories of dozens of previous medal recipients, many of whom lost their lives in the act of heroism. His wife, Abbey, suggested that they donate the money to their church.
Exactly two weeks before the robbery, Jones met a longtime friend, a Los Angeles Police Department robbery and homicide detective, for lunch. While they were eating, a man entered the restaurant wearing a motorcycle helmet, and the detective’s mood changed abruptly.
“He went from calm and cool to telling me, ‘Get down!’ and reaching for his gun,” Jones recalled. Then the man removed his helmet, sat down at a table and everything was normal again.
Over the rest of lunch, the detective told Jones all about an armed robber who was plaguing Los Angeles area banks. The robber always wore a motorcycle helmet, frequently fired a gun, and had recently taken a hostage in one robbery.
“I got the entire story on this guy’s M.O.,” Jones said.
So when Jones was sitting in the Farmers and Merchants Bank on the morning of Friday, March 5, chatting with the bank manager at his desk in the far corner of the lobby, he immediately sensed danger when a man walked in the bank wearing a motorcycle helmet, leather pants and a riding jacket.
“I told him, ‘Push a button or something, because you are about to be robbed.’ He said, ‘No, I’m just going to ask him to take the helmet off.’
“Right as he stood up, the guy pulls out a .38 pistol and tells everybody, ‘Get down, this is a real robbery, this is a real gun.’ And there was lots of profanity,” Jones said.
Jones, who stands 6 feet 2 inches and weighs 250 pounds, said his first reaction was to jump out of his chair and tackle the man. But he quickly decided to sit tight and assess the situation. He thought the robber might just take some money and leave, and no one would get hurt.
“Then another customer walked in the bank carrying a money satchel. The robber turned away from the tellers and assaulted this person, pushing them down and grabbing the bag,” Jones said.
In that 10 seconds, the tellers and everyone working behind the counter vanished, Jones said. When the robber turned his attention back to the teller window, there was no one there to hand him money. So he lunged over the counter, a pistol in one hand, trying to reach a cash caddy.
That’s when Camp, also a large man, jumped on the robber from behind, even as the bank manager was yelling out, “Don’t do it, don’t do it.”
The robber fired off three random shots, hitting the floor and ceiling. He then reached the pistol down between his own legs and fired, hitting Camp in the thigh, and kept firing the gun, hitting the older woman in the leg. Then he fumbled and dropped the gun.
At that point, Jones raced out from where he was crouched behind the manager’s desk, grabbed the gun and sent it sliding across the tile floor.
Jones then piled on as Camp and the robber went down to the floor. With both men lying on him, the robber cried out for them to ease up, that he couldn’t breathe. But Jones saw the man’s right arm move, and could see that he had a second pistol and extra clips on a belt.
The gun went off underneath them, hitting the robber in his left elbow.
“I pulled that gun out of his hand, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe I should just shoot this guy.’ But I knew I didn’t want to end my life knowing I had killed another person, so I threw it way across the floor,” Jones said.
At that point, the bank’s security guard raced in and helped Camp and Jones handcuff the robber. Moments later, just 2 minutes and 30 seconds after the robber first entered the bank and pulled the weapon, three squad cars of police stormed the building.
“It started at 10:24, and the police walked in at 10:26:30,” Jones said. “It happened in a nanosecond.”
It turned out the police were already in a parking lot nearby on another call.
Officers interviewed Jones and other bank customers and staff over the next several hours after taking the robber into custody.
The capture of Robert Lockwood, then 51, ended a string of armed bank robberies he had pulled off in the Los Angeles area over the previous three years. Lockwood was convicted of charges related to the earlier hostage-taking and for the March 5 robbery, and will spend the rest of his life in federal prison, Jones said.
It wasn’t until his capture that police figured out how crafty Lockwood was. He used black electrical tape and red cellophane to cover the white parts of his motorcycle’s body and helmet, making them appear red. He would then strip off the covering and escape, no longer fitting the description of the suspect.
It also turned out that the robber lived just a block away from the Jones family in Long Beach. For a few tense moments during the interviews, investigators suspected that Jones was actually an accomplice. But the bank manager, who had known Jones for more than 20 years, vouched for him.
The next day, he was quoted in front page news articles, one in the Long Beach Press-Telegram under the headline “Heroes foil bank heist,” and another in the Los Angeles Times, “Two Men Seize Bank Shooter.”
Still, the robbery was unsettling. Jones said it took a full year to be able to get a good night’s sleep. It took months for him to be comfortable sitting in a restaurant or be in a crowded place, and to this day he cannot relax and be comfortable in a dark movie theater.
“It definitely rattled my cage,” he said.
Already, he and Abbey had been feeling that Long Beach and the Los Angeles area was becoming too dangerous a place to live. For years, Jones spent the summers building houses in northern California, and by the time of the robbery he had started working summers in Glenwood Springs with his friend and partner, the architect Brad Jordan.
“The bank robbery, for me, was like the final straw. We were already itching to get out, and the robbery became a motivating factor,” he said.
After settling up their business affairs in California, the family moved to Glenwood Springs last summer. The children, Stephen, 10, and Sophia, 6, are happily attending Sopris Elementary School.
“My family loves it here. The kids love their school, and I have been working for some kind, kind people. It’s definitely driven home that we made the right decision to come here and leave ‘Hell’s Haze.’ That’s what we called it,” Jones said.
He now calls the robbery “a life-changing experience,” something that added to his character, but not something he would have chosen to experience or would ever want to go through again.
Now that he has received the Carnegie Hero medal, Jones said he feels both humble and proud to be grouped together with heroes of the past century. But he is mostly happy to be settling in to Glenwood Springs with his family and moving on with his life.
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